Your Excellency Mr. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China and Chairperson of FOCAC;
Your Excellency Mr. Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa and Co-Chair of FOCAC;
Your Excellency Mr. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda and Chairperson of the African Union;
Your Excellencies Heads of State and Governments
Your Excellency Mr. Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations;
Distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning to you all.
Please allow me to begin my remarks on behalf of the East Africa Region by expressing our utmost respect and highest consideration as well as our appreciation to the Chinese Government for the hospitality and auspicious beginning of this important and historic event as we gather in the beautiful city of Beijing for the first time in 12 years.
Today marks an important and is a testament to how far we have come in our cooperation. Indeed, although most of our countries’ relations with China date back decades since the very first FOCAC in 2000, Africa and China have successfully launched a new era of win-win cooperation.
In fact, since that first meeting in Beijing 18 years ago, China’s investments in Africa have grown exponentially in every single sector and have no doubt been a contributing factor to the unprecedented growth our continent has experienced within that time.
Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen
We believe that what we share with China is a shared sense of urgency to lift our people out of poverty and reach economic independence and self-sufficiency. What we have found in China is a partner that not only believes in our ability to do so but also invests in us. In that respect, FOCAC has been instrumental in bringing together critical investments in infrastructure, power generation, and transmission, industrialization but also agricultural transformation and knowledge.
Indeed our mutual history is one based on win-win cooperation and mutual benefits as well as African agency in complete contrast to what some would have you believe.
In that respect the numbers speak for themselves: according to a report that came out last year close to 90% of the Chinese firms operating in Africa were privately owned and 89% of their employees were Africans which translates to several million jobs across Africa most of which come with skills and job training.
Those companies still turn high profit margins while significantly lowering the prices of products and services through technology and efficiency.
Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen,
We all know that if our countries are to prosper, they must produce!
We must grow our industries and trade with one another.
We must make and transform goods within our
borders and add value to our commodities before exporting them.
It is with that agenda in mind that we have made it our ambition to become a production and export hub as well
as a natural gateway to the rest of the continent.
China’s role has been instrumental in achieving our economic takeoff, and you don’t need to look further than East Africa to witness this transformation.
Smartphones assembled in factories in Ethiopia now sell half as many units as the iPhone while providing decent jobs to thousands of Ethiopians and making technology affordable to young Kenyans and Djiboutians.
In the same way investment in power generation has allowed rural areas to access electricity while helping farmers make the most of their land.
Meanwhile, we have greatly benefited from Chinese investments in our ports, railways, and roads to improve
the movement of goods and persons which have made significant contributions to our economies’ growth.
The One Belt, One Road Initiative is, therefore, the key to furthering our growth agenda and we are delighted that our region will continue to benefit from its many advantages.
In that respect, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people for standing with us and believing that our development goals could be achieved through a win-win cooperation.
Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen
China’s involvement and investments in East Africa indeed date back more than 40 years which demonstrates not only the depth of our relationship but more importantly how China, even when it was trying to develop itself and lift its people out of poverty, always extended the hand of friendship to Africa and believed in our success.
China was thus the first partner to acknowledge that the way out of poverty cannot be through assistance alone but must necessarily be through the building of our national economies.
So now that we have grown together, we are pleased to see that our win-win cooperation and friendship has only deepened and has helped better our peoples’ lives.
To that end, Africa as a whole and our region in particular is eager to take full of advantage of the world markets and we strongly hope that will we on a level playing field with the rest of the world in accordance with international rules and standards.
As President Xi Jinping so adequately said: “China and Africa are friends tested by adversity, and such friendship must not be forgotten.”
We have indeed overcome a lot, and we in the East Africa region remain committed to regional peace and stability as well as economic cooperation and integration that will help us mutualize our comparative advantages and make the most of our shared growth.
On behalf of the East Africa region please allow me to conclude my remarks by proposing the creation of a Joint East Africa-China business council that would serve as a channel for business to business cooperation as well as a forum for economic advancement and reforms.
Thank you for your attention
Long live the partnership and friendship between Africa and China;
Long Live FOCAC.